Yangon

 

We flew from Bagon to Yangon.

The Strand Hotel was our hotel in Yangon - on TripAdvisor and 8.9 on Booking . Located at 92, Strand Road, is the oldest and most famous hotel in Myanmar, built by the Sarkies brothers in 1901. It is a national landmark and was renovated in the 1990s after years of neglect. Its facade is rather unimpressive compared to other colonial buildings nearby, but the decor inside maintains an ambiance of earlier days.

We stayed 2 nights, went off to the Golden Rock, and returned for 1 more night The welcome at reception is first class, and a manager is always on hand to jolly you along and listen/advise The location is good, as you can walk into town in a few minutes, and there are other restaurants in the area if you want to dine out Our room on both visits was exceptional, though I did prefer the one that faced the river to the one that was on a side street. Rooms ooze dark teak wood and colonial style. They are a size that you do not get these days in cities. High ceilings quality furnishings. One is allocated a butler, which I personally could have done without, but I appreciate that many like that touch. Naturally beds are turned down at night. A large fruit basket is replaced daily, and tapas are brought round before dinner.

My major gripe, and the manager is aware of this, is that the Fine Dining Restaurant, which we were looking forward to, was closed for a week, so we never got to it. It took much effort to extract this information on closure from staff So we ate in their cafe one evening - they offer a very reasonable fixed price meal as well as a la carte. It was fine for one evening, but we did not fancy the same on another night We sampled the afternoon tea another day. Which I thought overpriced for what was offered. In addition the sandwiches were not fresh - curling at the edges as they dried out. At these prices, sandwiches should be fresh

The bar, I thought was exceptional. Very atmospheric, and brilliant service. We settled for drinks and tapas in the bar for two nights, in lieu of the closed restaurant. The drinks and the tapas were excellent. And one was tempted to overindulge in both. Breakfast too was exceptional. Happily served rather than buffet. Everything was fresh, and I would commend both the juices and the smoothies. You could order away from the large choice on the menu, until it was time to stagger off for another days sightseeing In spite of my little niggles, I thought that this was one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at. The managers and staff do a fantastic job. The rooms and public area are of high quality. So, as I say, I would not want to stay anywhere else in Yangon, The Strand is what a 5 star hotel should be

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Yangon, formerly Rangoon, was the capital of Myanmar until it was superseded by Naypyidaw in November 2005. The streets of Yangon are filled with historical buildings many of which have a faded colonial charm not seen elsewhere in Asia.

Today, with a population of over 5 million people, it remains the largest city and main economic hub of the country. The city is an amalgamation of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences, and is known for its colonial architecture, which although decaying, remains an almost unique example of a 19th-century British colonial capital. New high-rise buildings were constructed from the 1990s as the government began to allow private investment. However, Yangon continues to be a city of the past, as seen by its longyi-wearing pedestrians, its street vendors and its pungent smells. There are some stunning sights - particularly the Shwe Dagon Pagoda - some wonderful markets - particularly Scott’s Market - and some fascinating walks - particularly along the Irrawaddy River.

When the capital shifted to Naypyidaw, former national government buildings such as the massive Secretariat Building, have been left to rot.

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Kandawgyi Lake (formerly Victoria Lakes). A large shaped lake northeast of the city centre. The Lake is best known for its Karaweik, a replica of a traditional Burmese royal boat. There is also a boardwalk around the southern edge of the lake, affording a better view than that from the gardens. The boardwalk is in very poor condition, and I felt that it was very risky just to walk on it.

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Shwedagon Pagoda the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar

Although the origins of the pagoda are unclear, the local legend states that the original structure was built 2500 years ago then renovated several times until taking its current shape in the 15th century. The 8-sided central stupa is 99 meters tall and gilded with gold leaf and is surrounded by 64 smaller stupas.

The Shwedagon Pagoda is the single most important religious site in all of Myanmar. The pagoda stands on the top of Singuttara Hill, and, according to legend, that spot has been sacred since the beginning of time, just before our present world was created. At that time, five lotus buds popped up on the hill, each bud signifying the five Buddhas who would appear in the world and guide it to Nirvana. Gautama, the Buddha as we know him, is the fourth of these five (Maitreya, the fifth, will announce the end of the world with his appearance) and, according to the legend, two brothers brought eight hairs of the Buddha to be enshrined in this sacred location, inaugurating the Shwedagon Pagoda. Whatever the truth of the legend, verifiable history records a pagoda at the site since the 6th Century AD. Built and rebuilt, gilded and re-gilded, almost nothing in the pagoda is likely to be old, except whatever is hidden deep inside the stupa.

An earthquake (18th century) destroyed the upper half of the pagoda spire and many buildings. Burmese Buddhists are inherently practical people who constantly build and rebuild pagodas for merit. It is a jungle of spires with superior Myanmar woodcarving embellishment and somewhat playfully but incongruously mixed and matched with modern building materials. The Shwedagon captures the essence of both the informal nature as well as the strong ties that signify the relationship that the Burmese have with their Buddhism. There is no other pagoda like it in Burma.

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The Dallah Ferry - The Dallah ferry leaves from the Pansodan Road Jetty across from The Strand Hotel. It takes you to Dallah, a small village across the river from Yangon, is an interesting ferry ride. The ride is brief but filled with all the craziness of a Burmese ferry: you can buy freshly sliced watermelon, cheroots and cigarettes, tea, all kinds of interesting looking food, various knick-knacks from the many vendors who pack the ferry. The ferry are two tiered. The lower deck has plastic seats for rent - small plastic chairs (kid-sized!) are available for rent for 5 kyats and larger deck chairs for 15-20 kyats. The Upper deck has seats for free. Upstairs, kids will jostle to sell you packets of what is used as bird food. You throw it out to gulls flying in circular pathway looking to get a morsel! The ferry ride seems more like a floating market than a means of transportation!

Upon reaching Dhala, We decanted into 3 local trishaws (one each for me, Chris and our guide) for a tour through the town. The town is remarkably different from nearby Yangon, with many trees, local neighbourhoods and quiet side streets filling the area. About half way there was the obligatory stop for the local market

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The Blind Tiger. We enjoyed our cocktails at the Blind Tiger. Bags of atmosphere, sort of like an old fashioned speak-easy. Prices are high but not outrageous, I thought them similar to the bar at The Strand. It is easy to while away hours sampling an interesting range of cocktails. Although we were there at happy hour, I was unable to find out what was actually on offer for happy hour, and have a lot of sympathy with an earlier reviewer who mentioned problems with getting happy hour drinks. It is unlikely that both he and I are wrong in this area. I suspect that the bar is aiming at regular customers, rather than drop-in tourists, and regulars know what to ask for. Having said that , I would recommend the BT to anyone wanting a pick me up after a days sightseeing

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British War Cemetery. The Taukkyan War Cemetery is a cemetery for Allied soldiers from the British Commonwealth who died in battle in Burma during the Second World War. The cemetery is in the village of Taukkyan, about 25 kilometres north of Yangon on Pyay Road. It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The cemetery contains the graves of 6,374 soldiers who died in the Second World War, the graves of 52 soldiers who died in Burma during the First World War, and memorial pillars (The Rangoon Memorial) with the names of over 27,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died in Burma during the Second World War but who have no known grave. There are 867 graves that contain the remains of unidentified soldiers. It is one of the most visited and high rated war sites of all Asia.

There are 7 VCs buried here, including Lt George Albert Cairns. Cairns' VC was the last to be gazetted for the Second World War as the original recommendation was with General Wingate when he was killed in an air crash. The recommendation was revived following a BBC broadcast of Cairns’ actions in December 1948. According to an article published in the Times Saturday 21 May 1949: The original recommendation for the award of the V.C. to Lieutenant Cairns was submitted to the late General Wingate after the usual evidence of three witnesses had been checked. The aircraft carrying General Wingate and the records crashed, the general being killed and all the records destroyed. Later, when the proposal was retrieved, it was found that two of the three witnesses had been killed and this led to further delay. The former Brigade Commander of the 77th Brigade (now Major Calvert) had the case reopened. Meanwhile, after listening to a broadcast in which her husband's bravery was mentioned, Mrs. Cairns, who lives at Sidcup, approached her M.P., Mr. G. D. Wallace, who made representations to the War Office on her behalf. Wallace told the Daily Telegraph that he "hoped [approaching the war office] would mean recognition not only for her husband but for herself and the grand fight she had put up." Cairns's wife, Ena Cairns, continued to work in the bank where she had first met her husband.The Victoria Cross citation was later published in the London Gazette:

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Aung San Suu Kyi's House, located at 54 University Avenue. The house used to be barricaded by a concrete wall and barbed wire, with surveillance and security to prevent documentation. Nowadays there is not much to see here except the outside of a wall.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician, diplomat, and author who is the First and incumbent State Counsellor and Leader of the National League for Democracy.The youngest daughter of Aung San, Father of the Nation of modern-day Myanmar, and Khin Kyi, Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Rangoon, British Burma. After graduating from the University of Delhi in 1964 and the University of Oxford in 1968, she worked at the United Nations for three years. She married Michael Aris in 1972, and gave birth to two children. Aung San Suu Kyi rose to prominence in the 1988 Uprisings, and became the General Secretary of the newly formed National League for Democracy (NLD). In the 1990 elections, NLD won 81% of the seats in Parliament, but the results were nullified, as the military refused to hand over power, resulting in an international outcry.

She had, however, already been detained under house arrest before the elections. She remained under house arrest for almost 15 of the 21 years from 1989 to 2010, becoming one of the world's most prominent political prisoners. Her party boycotted the 2010 elections, resulting in a decisive victory for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. Aung San Suu Kyi became a Pyithu Hluttaw MP while her party won 43 of the 45 vacant seats in the 2012 by-elections. In the 2015 elections, her party won a landslide victory, taking 86% of the seats in the Assembly of the Union. Although she was prohibited from becoming the President due to a clause in the constitution – her late husband and children are foreign citizens – she assumed the newly created role of State Counsellor, a role akin to a Prime Minister or a head of government. Aung San Suu Kyi has gained international acclaim, having received many honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize

Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for a total of 15 years over a 21-year period, on numerous occasions, since she began her political career, during which time she was prevented from meeting her party supporters and international visitors. In an interview, Suu Kyi said that while under house arrest she spent her time reading philosophy, politics and biographies that her husband had sent her. She also passed the time playing the piano, and was occasionally allowed visits from foreign diplomats as well as from her personal physician. We passed the house from the road, but not the lakeside.

 

On to Golden Rock

Burma Holiday